This Luis Buñuel work has a distinctive surrealistic stamp to it. In order to flee the constriction of their diminishing world, an odd assortment of upper middle-class folk escape from reality through dreams. As in Belle de Jour and Tristana, the director cuts back and forth between the fantasies and realities of his characters enfleshing in cinema the philosophy of J. A. Boifford who noted, "We are all at the mercy of the dream and we owe it to ourselves to submit to its power in the waking state." Buñuel confidently weaves a spell with the camera, in effect creating factual hallucinations to illustrate the wish fulfillments of his "indiscreet" bourgeoisie.
The Ambassador of Miranda (Fernando Rey) and his two business partners, Mr. Thevenot (Paul Frankeur) and Mr. Senechal (Jean-Pierre Cassel), are involved in heroin smuggling behind their respectable jobs. The Ambassador is also carrying on an affair with Thevenot's wife. Whenever they all try to get together for dinner at the Senechal residence, they are interrupted. A whole series of sequences form variations on the same incident. The most humorous has them sitting down to dine and realizing that they are on stage playing to an amused audience. Another version has dinner interrupted by a visit from an army troop that smokes marijuana.
In a very absurd yet touching sequence, a bishop (Julien Bertheau) shows up at the Senechal home and volunteers to be their gardener: "You've heard of worker priests? Well, I'm a worker bishop." The episode is amusing but indicative of the challenge to the secure and orderly world of the bourgeoisie. What can make sense when a bishop kneels down in the garden?
As usual, Buñuel has chosen a marvelous cast. The women Delphine Seyrig as Thevenot's wife, Bulle Ogier as her sister, and Stephane Audran as Senechal's wife take satirical swipes at etiquette and middle-class mores. Fernando Rey is unflappable as the priggish Ambassador, and Julien Bertheau gives the bishop a touch of whimsy that really works. In The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Buñuel manages to mix a vision of the nature of man and a satirical assault on a self-righteous social class in a technically brilliant and very funny cinematic triumph.